Church Hislop’s Tewkesbury Shakedown


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The weekend of 5 and 6 July 2014 marked the first outing of my N gauge layout Church Hislop, promoting Jet Age Museum at the Model Steam Road Vehicle Society Rally at Tewkesbury.  Happily it fulfilled my design expectations of easy transport and rapid set up as discussed more fully here which leaves only the most recent upgrades, field operation and public reaction for further reportage.


The second annual Future Pilots Day will be held from 1000 to 1600 on Thursday 1 January 2015 at Jet Age Museum, Meteor Business Park, Gloucestershire Airport, Cheltenham Road East, GL2 9QL. As well as Vulcan, Hunter and Gnat cockpit visits the attractions will include a display of modelling techniques and Jet Age's own N gauge layout Church Hislop featuring a Blackburn Beverley four engined transport, pictured.






Although die cast models of Britain’s jet V-bombers remain an option for the airfield apron, Jet Age Museum’s Reserve Model Collection recently acquired a rare 1/144 scale model of a Blackburn Beverley transport from the collection of the late Ron Firth of Sheffield: thus enabling a Yorkshire built model of a Yorkshire built aircraft named after a Yorkshire town to appear on a Yorkshire based layout.

Another local connection was that the B-101 Beverley was a piston powered descendant of General Aircraft Limited’s wartime Hamilcar glider, the big brother of the Airspeed Horsa which had cockpit sections for it built at H.H. Martyn’s Sunningend Works in Cheltenham.  A replica Horsa cockpit is also currently under construction at Jet Age Museum, as more fully explored at

General Aircraft Limited (GAL) merged with Blackburn Aircraft in 1949 although the joint title of Blackburn and General Aircraft Limited only lasted until 1958, after which Blackburn Aircraft Limited became part of the Hawker Siddeley group of companies in 1960 and the Blackburn name was finally dropped in 1963.

In fact the prototype of what would become the Beverley, the GAL 60 Universal Freighter, was built GAL’s Feltham, Middlesex, factory and then dismantled for transport to Blackburn’s Brough factory airfield, where it first flew on 20 June 1950.

Brough had previously been the birthplace of the Blackburn Shark and Skua naval aircraft and would later produce the Blackburn Buccaneer


The second development aircraft – designated GAL 65 – featured rear clamshell doors in place of the GAL 60’s combined door and ramp as well as 36 seats in the tail boom.  It was also powered by Bristol Centaurus engines in place of the earlier Bristol Hercules and these new prime movers were also fitted with reverse pitch propeller, allowing the GAL 65 to land in 310 yards while its fully laden take off run was 790 yards.

The first RAF order for what would be termed by them the C Mk 1 Beverley came in 1952, the Brough factory building all 49 examples of what Blackburn and General Aircraft designated the B-101.  The fixed undercarriage Beverley could carry a bulky item such as the fuselage of an English Electric Canberra bomber in its hold or have it filled with 94 extra paratroops, who would then jump from a hatch in the floor of the boom just ahead of the leading edge of the tailplane.  Unfortunately this hatch was adjacent to the aircraft’s toilets and after an airman leaving the toilet fell twenty feet to his death through a hatch he did not realise was open the design of that part of the Beverley was modified.

The first RAF Beverley C1 joined 47 Squadron at Abingdon on 12 March 1956 and the type served extensively in the Middle and Far East until retirement in October 1967.  By then, nine aircraft had been lost to accidents or enemy action and of the forty survivors three were initially preserved.  XH124 and XB261 were kept outside at the RAF Museum, Hendon and the Southend Historic Aviation Museum respectively but both deteriorated and were ultimately scrapped, although part of the the cockpit of XB261 is now indoors at Newark Air Museum, Nottingham. Former Blackburn development aircraft XB259 (G-AOAI) however remains complete at Fort Paull near Hull having previously been on display at the now-closed Museum of Army Transport in Beverley, East Yorkshire.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many people recognised the Beverley and also reminisced about working on the type, flying in them or just growing up with them around!



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Surrounding the Blackburn Beverley are the Oxford Die Cast RAF Land Rover more fully described at

and a Scammell Scarab with a fully loaded flatbed trailer.

In the late 1920’s the railway companies were looking for a suitable vehicle to use on their town parcels delivery traffic, which was predominately horse drawn. The London Midland & Scottish Railway experimented with various ideas and in late 1930 announced, jointly with Karrier Motors, a tractor unit for this purpose. The vehicle, the Karrier Cob, was powered by a twin cylinder Jowett engine and utilized a mechanism to couple existing horse trailers to the tractor unit.

Meanwhile the London and North Eastern Railway had approached Napier’s, the quality car and aero-engine makers for an answer to the same problem. They came up with some ideas, but didn’t wish to develop the concept and sold the project to Scammell Lorries. Their designer, O. D. North, refined and further developed the concept of the three wheel tractor unit which automatically coupled and un-coupled trailers, and in 1934 announced the introduction of the Mechanical Horse.

The Mechanical Horse was a very simple and sturdy vehicle which was constructed on a steel channel frame and fitted with a wooden cab, the early versions having canvas doors. The Mechanical Horse came in two sizes, capable of carrying loads of three tons and six tons.  These were powered by Scammell’s own side valve petrol engine of 1125cc (3-ton) and 2043cc (6-ton), the engine being offset to the left of the cab. The vehicles are very manoeuverable (with a 16 foot trailer they can turn through 360O in 19 feet), have a road speed of about 20 mph, and do between 10 and 20 mpg. In addition to the railway companies, they were also used by quite a number of private companies and the armed forces, who used them in stores and on aircraft carriers. The 6-ton coupling was also fitted to popular makes of light trucks such as Bedfords.



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After the end of the Second World War, Scammell Lorries looked at the Mechanical Horse, which was basically unchanged from its 1934 design, realised that something more modern was called for and set about re-designing the vehicle. The successful automatic coupling was retained, but the rest of the tractor was completely new. The frame was cranked downwards, the engine, gear box and rear axle were built as one unit and fitted low down in the frame behind the cab. The radiator was fitted in the back wall of the cab, drawing cooling air from a duct behind the driver’s door. The side valve petrol engine of 2090cc was used for both the 3 and 6-ton models. Later Scammell offered diesel engines, these were the Perkins 4-199 for 3-ton and P4 and P4203 for 6-ton models. The low mounting of the engine and other design changes made the Scarab more stable and its rounded all steel cab was more comfortable for drivers. The Scarab lasted in production until 1967. 


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In addition to the basic structure of the National Trust “lid” as described at the end of

the farmer’s high level field has been divided in two using resin pig stys and a length of resin dry stone walling (also used to stop aircraft or airmen falling off the other lid) and Fresian cattle have been added to the second enclosure.  The little grey Ferguson tractor also now has a farmer and two veterinary surgeons standing next to it (although James and Siegfried really need an Oxford Die Cast Land Rover to arrive in!)  while other N gauge people now populate the footpath leading to the Abbey and form a small crowd in the coach park.  It is hoped that as more suitable 1962 era cars and motor coaches become available they will be added to the asphalt and allow the parking lot to evolve.


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Despite having some practice sessions at Jet Age, I was pleased at how well the trains ran at the show, the Graham Farish by Bachmann ex LNER J39 0-6-0 (pictured below) performing some very realistic slow starts with its train of six Presflo wagons.



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The loop and main line at the front of Church Hislop combined with two loops off the main line in the fiddle yard at the rear allowed for a maximum of four trains to be operated, operational sequences then effectively being about moving the spare space.

For example, with the J39 and its Presflos waiting on the main line en route to Cliff Common, points at both ends could be switched so that Class 20 Bo-Bo D8000 (now a National Railway Museum resident) could move on to the loop hauling a train of container flat wagons (Conflats) towards York.  Once stationary, D8000 could then be isolated by the points allowing the J39 to move off and occupy the empty line at the back.



The Gloucester Model Railway Show will be held at Hucclecote Methodist Church, GL3 3QP (on the Number 10 bus route from Cheltenham to Gloucester) from 1000 to 1700 on Saturday 20 June 2015 and will feature 12 layouts in Gauges O to N depicting Devon, Yorkshire, Ireland, Wales, Switzerland and New Mexico. There will also be a hands-on children's layout, trade stands and a buffet. Adults £3.00 / Children £1.50 / Concessions £2.00.


























With D8000 and its Conflats still isolated in the loop, the other Cliff Common bound train – a Class 24 with a rake of Tarmac bitumen wagons, could then move from the fiddle yard to the main line at the front and stop there to allow D8000 to move towards York.



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To make room for the Class 24 and its Tarmac tanks in the fiddle yard, a British Standard 2MT 2-6-0 and its train of ventilated vans then entered the oil depot loop from Cliff Common en route to York.  With the Class 24 safely behind the “sky”, the J39 and its Presflos could then re-emerge from York to Cliff Common and the sequence started again.













This traffic operating sequence was dictated by both the  track geometry of Church Hislop and the fact that only one power controller was available.  In other words, only one train could move at a time whereas in real life two trains could move both towards and away from a passing loop on a single line.

However, while this arrangement on either Network Rail or a preserved railway would normally be controlled by fixed semaphore or colour light signals or, more technologically, by a Radio Electronic Token Block system, the real Derwent Valley Light Railway only ever had one engine in steam and one signal – attached to a level crossing gate by a length of rope!

Had the company wished to increase its line capacity for through and stopping services however, one method could have proved both safe enough for the Railway Inspectorate and economical enough to satisfy the shareholders.

Given that the loop at Church Hislop was a mid point of the railway, the DVLR could have been divided into York and Cliff Common sections, trains not being able to enter either section from the North Eastern Railway (later LNER and then BR Eastern Region) without the relevant single line staff.  If the staffs handed over at both York and Cliff Common were also keys to the locked points at their own ends of the Church Hislop passing loop, the following sequence could have been operated.

As seen above, Train  A from Cliff Common has entered the main line opposite the Church Hislop loop but has been forced to stop as the point ahead of it is set for the loop.  The crew cannot throw the point as it is locked by the York section staff.  In the same way, any train approaching from York cannot proceed into the Cliff Common section without the key staff held by the crew of Train A.












However, the crew of Train A – being in possession of the Cliff Common staff – CAN unlock and throw the point behind them, thus isolating Train A.  This move would also be detected at both York and Cliff Common by plungers attached to the moving point blades breaking old and making new electrical circuits.  Lamps at both control rooms would change sequence from ON OFF ON OFF to ON ON OFF OFF













Train B then arrives from York…















… and the crew can use the York section key staff to unlock and throw the York end points, thus freeing Train A to proceed to York once both crews have exchanged key staffs.  This would then allow Train A to take the York section key staff back to York and Train B to take the Cliff Common staff back to Cliff Common.  The control room lamp sequence would then indicate OFF ON OFF ON.













As an extra safety measure, Train A – having arrived first – would depart first with the crew of Train B ready to report any derailment or other mishap to both control rooms by either radio or telephone.














Train C, being the next arrival from Cliff Common, could adopt a similar procedure after rolling to a halt in the oil depot loop, isolating itself with the Cliff Common key staff so that the main line in effect becomes a single through line














This isolation could be maintained if, for example, Train C was due to spend a long time unloading oil from tank wagons at the terminal.  As the crew of Train C retain the Cliff Common key staff, the York section key staff would then give authority for the holding train to travel the whole length of the line.  The control room lamp system would register OFF OFF ON ON.













Releasing Train C would require Train D to arrive from York and the crew exchange key staffs before taking these devices back to their parent stations.



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